Football Games

Perhaps the strongest and most enduring bond between the people of Norway and Dumfries has been a common love of football. The friendly rivalry began on 1st August 1940 when local team Greystone Rovers, in their black and gold strips, drew 2-2 against the Norwegian Army team at Huntingdon Park.[1] One of the young players that day was John Wallace, who went on to become chairman of Greystone and ensured the longevity of ties between Dumfries and Norway through football. A Dumfries & Galloway Standard article of 1976 describes how “it was Mr. Wallace who renewed contact with them in 1951. Ever since S.K. Brann has come over to Scotland, and Dumfries have gone to Norway in alternate years.”[2]

Norwegians didn’t only play against Doonhamers. During the Second World War international football matches were held between the Allied forces. This saw Norwegian soldiers based in Dumfries play against other military teams based in the UK including Dutch, Czechoslovakian and Polish troops. A game between Norway and Poland was photographed on the playing field of St Joseph’s College, while Dumfries Museum possesses a commemorative mirror and flag from a Norwegian and Dutch match in 1941.[3] Another item in the museum collection is this war-time Czechoslovakian article about a game against the Norwegian Army team:

“You all are spectators to-day of a football match of the Czechoslovak and Norwegian Football XIs. It is by no means an easy matter for us to play in your country… ‘the cradle of football’, which means that we are being called upon to demonstrate a game you tought us… If, then, you are witness of to-days meeting you should take into account that every man you see is but an amateur, whose first and uppermost duty is military service and for whom football is now only recreation. Judging them by their merits, they will be well content if you acknowledge their pep and puch that that they stick to what you are used to call ‘fair play’.”[4]

However this is somewhat at odds with the account of Town Clerk James Hutcheon, who well recalls his own misjudgement of the Norwegian team’s ability and the subsequent ‘fitba massacre’: “Because of the restriction on travel in wartime we could not continue to have First Division football. Dumfries was fitba daft. We had had the most successful year of our career. We would ‘teach they puir foreigners our national gem’ – so we organised a match just to give them some idea of how the game went.

The night before I was again a guest at the Officers’Mess and I noticed that in addition to medal ribbons, several of those present were wearing a little bronze medallion. I asked what this was and I found out to my horror that it was the runners-up medal in the Association Football Final in the Oslo Olympic Games. I counted nine of them in the room. I excused myself and telephoned the sad news that they had been too polite to tell us they knew all about fitba. I will not bring a blush to the cheek by giving the score next day.[5]

Despite the damage to civic pride, in the summer of 1951 Major Myreseth, former commander of the Norwegian brigade in Dumfries, helped John Wallace to arrange Greystone’s first tour of Norway.[6] They sent 14 boys “across the water” to be hosted by Norwegian families and play against a series of teams including the Brann Juniors in Bergen. Brann would visit Dumfries in July the following year, beginning a long tradition of exchanges in alternating years, which has stopped and started at different times. One former Greystone Rovers player who went to Bergen in 1951 remembers Norwegians in Dumfries as a boy, and even went to the 1942 exhibition at Norge Hus with his school.[7] Since that first game between local boys and exiled soldiers, generations of children have benefited from this opportunity to “visit another country thereby broadening their viewpoint on life” while the links with Norway are strengthened.[8]

[1] Greystone Rovers, ‘John Wallace’ in Golden Jubilee 1988 programme, p.3

[2] Future Museum, ‘The Norwegian Connection: Interallied football match’ [accessed 05.2.2017] <,-newspaper-feature-part-2.aspx>

[3] Future Museum, ‘The Norwegian Connection: Interallied football match’ [accessed 05.2.2017] <>

[4] Future Museum, ‘The Norwegian Connection: Czechoslovak soccer’ [accessed 05.2.2017] <>

[5] James Hutcheon, ‘When the Norwegians Came to Dumfries’, p.4 – Courtesy of Dumfries Museum

[6] Greystone Rovers, ‘Greystone Rovers History’ in Golden Jubilee 1988 programme, p.8

[7] Interview with Our Norwegian Story researcher

[8] Greystone Rovers, ‘John Wallace’ in Golden Jubilee 1988 programme, p.3

Related Posts

© Copyright - Dumfries’ Norwegian Story

Copyrighted Image